#180. Depression in Women|Factors| Signs and Symptoms- Dr. Christiana Stephen

Hello Moms,

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Before entering the subject it is important to highlight to my readers that depression is a disease that must be diagnosed and treated properly by a professional. Now, it is important to know that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression and can occur at any age. This is because there are several factors that increase the risk of depression in women. Some changes in mood and depressive feelings appear with hormonal changes. However, hormonal changes alone do not cause depression. Other important factors are biological, hereditary, as well as situations and personal experiences are associated with a higher risk of suffering from depression. I have suffered from depression and I think it is important to inform my readers on the need to pay attention to self.

Some of the factors that contribute to depression in women 

  1. Puberty

Hormonal changes during puberty may increase the risk in some girls of having depression. However, the temporary mood swings associated with hormonal variation during puberty are normal: these changes alone do not cause depression.

Often, puberty is associated with other experiences that can influence depression, such as:

  • New conflicts related to sexuality and identity.
  • Severe problems at home with the parents or another member of the family.
  • Increase in demand in school, sports and other areas of life.

After puberty, rates of depression are higher in women than in men. Because, in general, women reach puberty earlier than men, they also usually have depression at a younger age than they do.

  1. Premenstrual problems

Most women with premenstrual syndrome have symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headache, anxiety, irritability, and sadness, mild and short-term. However, a small number of women have severe and disabling symptoms that affect their studies, work, relationships or other areas of life. At that level, the premenstrual syndrome can develop into a premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a type of depression that usually requires medical treatment.

  1. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, there are important hormonal changes that can affect mood. Other problems can also increase the risk of depression during pregnancy or during attempts to get pregnant, for example:

  • Changes in lifestyle or work, or other factors in life that cause stress.
  • Couple problems.
  • Previous episodes of depression, postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  • The absence of social support.
  • An unwanted or unexpected pregnancy.
  • Spontaneous abortion.
  • Stop the use of antidepressant medications.
  1. Postpartum depression

Many mothers who have just given birth are sad, angry and irritable, and have episodes of crying shortly after giving birth. These feelings, sometimes called “postpartum sadness,” are normal and usually go away in a week or two. However, more severe and lasting feelings of depression may indicate postpartum depression, particularly if the signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Low self-esteem or feeling that you are a bad mother.
  • Anxiety or numbness.
  • Problems sleeping, even when the baby sleeps.
  • Problems in your performance to perform your daily activities.
  • Inability to care for your baby.
  • Thoughts about hurting your baby.
  • You have suicidal thoughts.

Postpartum depression is a serious illness that requires immediate treatment. It occurs in 10 to 15% of women. It is believed that it is associated with:

  • The important hormonal fluctuations that influence mood.
  • The responsibility of caring for a newborn baby.
  • The predisposition to suffer from anxiety and mood disorders.
  • Complications of childbirth.
  • Problems with breastfeeding.
  • Complications or special care of a newborn.
  • Poor social support.
  1. Perimenopause and Menopause

The risk of depression may increase during the transition to menopause, a stage called perimenopause, when hormone levels vary irregularly. The risk of depression can also increase at the beginning of the menopause or after it, since, at both times, the levels of estrogen are reduced considerably.

Most women who have bothersome menopausal symptoms do not suffer from depression. However, the following factors may increase the risk:

  • Insufficient or interrupted sleep
  • Anxiety or a history of depression
  • Life stressful events
  • Weight gain.
  • Early menopause
  • Menopause caused by the surgical removal of the ovaries
  1. Culture and circumstances of life

The circumstances of life and cultural factors of stress also influence and there are several factors that can increase the risk, such as:

  • Inequality of power and social position. Women are much more likely to live in poverty than men, which raises concerns and uncertainty about the future. Some women also face a higher level of stress due to social discrimination. These problems can cause feelings of negativity, low self-esteem and lack of control of your life.
  • Work overload. Often, women work outside their home and also take care of household responsibilities. Many women struggle with the challenges of being single mothers, like having several jobs to have money at the end of the month. In addition, women may be taking care of their children and, at the same time, sick or elderly relatives.
  • Sexual or physical abuse. Women who were victims of sexual abuse or emotional or physical abuse of girls or adults are more likely to suffer from depression at some time in their lives than those who did not suffer abuse or mistreatment.

Other conditions that manifest with depression include: 

Women with depression often have other mental health conditions that also need treatment, such as the following:

  • Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia)
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.

How to recognize depression and seek treatment

People often identify depression with feelings of melancholy, sadness, and discouragement. They often define it as a “phase” from which one cannot exit. But for this overwhelming disease, there is an effective treatment. In general, even severe depression can be treated successfully.

Seek help if you have signs and symptoms of depression, for example: 

  • The most characteristic symptom of depressions is sadness and hopelessness. The sadness in the depressive patient has some specific characteristics.
  • The different situations or conflicts of the day perceive them with greater intensity, that is, it affects them more than expected.
  • Usually, the feeling is described as different from other sad experiences that you suffered previously, and there is more loss of control and great difficulty in finding motivation after what happened.
  • Changes in appetite that cause considerable weight loss or weight gain.
  • Slowness to perform movements, in addition, facial and body expressions are few or almost nil. There is a feeling of fatigue, irritability, easy crying, and fear of decision making.
  • Significant changes in sleep patterns, such as problems falling asleep, insomnia or sleeping excessively. For example, insomnia is very characteristic in the most severe forms, is what we call “early awakening” (you can sleep well in the early hours of the night and then during the early hours of the morning, you wake up and you cannot reconcile the dream).
  • Great difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering things. It is not exclusive to depressions, but it can present itself as a symptom. In elderly people, this difficulty in thinking about depressions can lead to erroneous diagnoses of dementia.
  • A particularly serious symptom is the enormous difficulty to enjoy the situations and conditions of life that previously produced pleasure in the person. Not only is there a lack of motivation, but even with something nice in front of you, you can not enjoy or feel happy about it.
  • Physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, digestive discomfort, unexplained generalized pain, or other physical symptoms without an apparent cause.
  • Pessimistic thoughts and feelings of guilt for things done in the past.
  • Thoughts related to death or suicide. The person can repeat a lot “it would be better to be dead”, or, plan the method of how to take your own life, you can write it, say it to someone. At this point the risk of damaging is high. 

Don’t you know how to get treatment?

Consider going to the primary health care provider first, such as your family doctor, internal medicine specialist, skilled nursing staff, obstetrician, or gynecologist. If necessary, the primary health care provider can refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Remember, depression is frequent and treatable. If you think you are depressed, do not hesitate to seek help.

Something important that you should know about depression… 

  • You have to keep in mind that it does not “go away” suddenly.

Even if you follow treatment or take antidepressants, it is not so easy to overcome the symptoms in a few weeks because the medications need time to start working, usually between 10 and 12 weeks. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are a good option for depression. The important thing about every disease and every treatment is that you must be constant and persistent. Do not let anything or anyone take away the desire to be happy.

  • Exercise and yoga can help.

When you exercise, you release endorphins, a chemical that produces a sense of well-being and satisfaction in the body. Among the benefits of sports, including an improvement in sleep hours, control and re-make your daily meals, improves self-esteem and confidence and a significant reduction of stress, depression, and anxiety.

  • It does not mean that you cannot live your life.

Being diagnosed with depression does not have to prevent you from living day to day. It is best to seek professional help. Surely most people do not know many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, and J.K. Rowling, they have fought against depression.

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Christiana Stephen View All →

I am Dr. Christiana Stephen, a wife, a mom of 4 under 4 year old kids, a photo lover, makeup artist, a wellness coach and a lecturer. Motherhood for me is ongoing, its a period of learning and unlearning. I am passionate about a lot of things but most importantly helping mothers around the world reach their wellness goals comes as top priority. Hence, I have created this community for every woman out there. Feel free to be part of this amazing journey of motherhood and wellness. I will say raising this community is inspired by my experience and learning process. The main essence is to empower moms on the benefits of healthy living as well as the need to create a life work balance.
I am nice so a lot of people say and I believe I am very approachable even when there is a lot to be done. I love teaching. I can teach on a lot of things including time and stress management.

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